"I'm very proud of him." As Brookhaven swears in Georgia’s first Asian American Mayor, his proud parents look on.
The City witnesses a historic night as it also welcomes its first Latino councilman.
John Park took the oath of office in a packed room on Monday night at Brookhaven City Hall, becoming Georgia’s first ever Asian American mayor. Less than an hour later, Michael Diaz, originally from Colombia, became the city’s first Latino American councilman.
“As an immigrant, I came here when I was six. It just shows that America is indeed the land of opportunity,” said Park. He said having his parents at the ceremony was “a dream come true.”
John Park Sr and Jung Park were sitting in the front row to watch their son, their eyes brimming with pride. They migrated to Alabama from South Korea in 1980. Park Sr enrolled at Auburn University and three years later the family moved to Georgia. He said he never thought his son would be a mayor. “Never, never,” said his dad, who became a minister after he arrived in the United States.
Park Sr said he left South Korea out of fear of being targeted by the military. He was working as a translator with the Associated Press, helping them cover the Gwangju Uprising - when civilians protested against a military dictator who had taken power in a coup d’etat. The government had imposed martial law, cracking down on political opposition and the press. “They didn’t like the Associated Press and they didn't like me, because I helped them cover the story. I fled Korea.“
Several members of the Korean community in Atlanta were also in attendance.
“An Asian guy elected mayor? Wow,” said Simon Lee, President of the Korean American Association of Greater Atlanta (KAAGA). “I'm very proud of our Korean community. It’s exciting!” Lee says he hopes to have Mayor Park speak at an event at the KAAGA community center, which is headquartered in Norcross, in February.
There are over 50,000 Korean origin residents in the Metro Atlanta area, with the biggest communities in Duluth, Suwannee, and Johns Creek. Atlanta is among the top 10 cities in the U.S. with the largest Korean populations.
Mayor Park made it clear though, that both he and Councilman Diaz are serving all Brookhaven residents. “Brookhaven looks for excellence, no matter what their [candidates] background is,” he said.
“I think he’ll be a good mayor. I’m very proud of him,” said Park Sr.
“I’m proud too,” said his mom.
On Tuesday evening, Mayor Park will swear in Judge Bryan Ramos as Chief Judge of the Municipal Court in Brookhaven. He is the first Filipino American to serve in the state’s judiciary.
Both Park and Diaz were sworn in by Judge Alvin Wong, who serves on the state court in Dekalb County. He made history almost three decades ago when he became the first Asian American elected judge in the Southeast.
Thanks for reading 285 South! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.